Today, Thule was issued a new US patent (10,058,163) for an adjustable backpack. Why would Thule, known for car racks and related accessories, be pursuing a patent on a backpack? Because Thule likely understands the criticality in protecting innovation when branching into adjacent sectors of the outdoor gear space. There are many backpacks on the market, and Thule thinks they have innovated a way to enable new adjustments so that a user can maximize the air gap between the pack and their back.

Thule's invention purportedly relates to the way in which a spacing panel with a fixed edge is attached to a back panel and a free edge, where a lace connects an adjustment device and the spacing panel.  The lace also passes through an exterior side of a shoulder strap and an interior side of the shoulder strap, where the adjustment device is configured to retract the lace, thereby translating the spacing panel toward the edge portion of the back panel, thereby increasing a space between the spacing panel and the back panel. According to the patent:

Many bags and backpacks are used for outdoor activities, for example, hiking or camping. Other bags are used to transport goods, for example, books, laptops, or other portable electronic devices. Carrying a bag, particularly in warm weather, can be uncomfortable for the carrier. Heat and perspiration can get trapped between the carrier's back and the back panel of the bag. The bag can also rub against the carrier's back, causing abrasions or discomfort. The bags and backpacks disclosed herein may provide significant benefits to the carrier. For example, an adjustable spacing panel can facilitate increasing a space between the carrier's back and the back panel of the bag. The adjustment system can form a curve in the back panel, thereby increasing the space between the carrier's back and the back panel of the bag. This can allow air to flow in the space between the carrier's back and the back panel of the bag, thereby cooling the carrier.

Furthermore, these benefits can be achieved while the carrier is carrying the bag. For example, by locating the adjustment device on an accessible portion of the bag, such as a shoulder strap of the bag, the carrier can adjust the spacing between the carrier's back and the back panel of the bag without the hassle of removing the bag from their back. Much or all of the adjustment system, for example the lace, can be concealed, for example, within part of the shoulder strap or behind padding, so that it is hidden from view. The adjustment device can also be hidden from view, for example, by placing it near a lower edge of the back panel or spacing panel.
 
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Time will tell whether this design becomes a top seller for Thule, as they look to expand into new areas of the outdoor gear market.

 

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